Yendluri Sudhakar 2002.
pandiri / Darky:
A Bilingual Anthology of Poems 1985-2002.
Secunderabad: JJ Publications.
© Hemalatha 2002
Yendluri Sudhakar is a well known and widely
respected Telugu poet and short-story writer. His poetry is more accessible in English than most, in this book especially. It displays his Telugu originals on one side of each opening, the translations,
by several different translators, on the other. There are also two informative appreciations of his work.
Four of the translations are included
here: ‘An Autobiography’, ‘A New Dream’, ‘Dakkali Girl’ and ‘Mysamma’s Death’.
They are an inevitably inadequate introduction to his large and exceptionally varied range. 'MO', the translator
of these four, is the main translator for this volume.
For the impressive title poem, ‘Neelika /
Darky’ and the many others, please enjoy them on the pages of the book itself.
Two paragraphs (p.185/6) from Tallavajjala
Patanjali Sastry's appreciation make an appropriate introduction:
at what he has done. He is one of those Pochampalli weavers - most evocative motifs, elaborate artistry and if there is a
grammar to weaving (and not technique) Sudhakar is an exquisite weaver. His seemingly straight style has a special charm and
his cunning employment of metaphors, though not unfamiliar, sound fresh and untouched. Sudhakar does not care for brevity.
Any number of his poems - on his widowed mother, Shakeela, his own diabetes, Godavari et al pitchforked him to the
front of leading Telugu poets. But as I have been saying he has a niche as a different dalit poet. In saying this I also refer
to his prose work though technically I am out of bounds.’
‘Street sweepers are a familiar sight
in India. So when Mysammas die, earth doesn't exactly tremble. Look at his opening lines describing her. Clad in a blue
saree with a blazing red dot on her forehead, Mysamma appears accompanying the dawn. The allusion is to the cult goddess Mysamma
who presided over water and land. Like a Goddess cursed she walked the earth and perished. The legend of Mysamma in different
forms appears in texts. He remembered her as a boy pedalling down the road where she worked. The boy in fact was trying to
rescue her (on her powerful presence) from the mists of legends. It is a racial memory packed in four separate sentences.
The give-away is in the name. Such cult allusions are strewn all over his poetry.’
My autobiography was released in the palace of wonders.
Felicitations on the open stage.
As garlands fall on my neck
of yester years startle.
When flowers are showered on my head
Deep inside thorny whips flail.
As felicitation addresses are read out
Inside my intestines knives of humiliation pierce.
As incantations ring behind
In my ears are spread the flaming cries of smoking lead.
When they sat me on the
I recollect the face of my grand father
Made to stand
at the outskirts of the village.
When glasses full with water are put before me
Scenes of kneeling and
Touch me as hot deserts.
As a shawl is spread around my shoulders
figure of my blouseless
Grand mother cuts my heart.
As silk clothes are presented to me
The coarse rags of my grand father
Hang on the clothesline of my eyes.
When I am invited to festival
Nights of cast away food
In the cattle sheds come to memory.
prostrates at my feet
Clay feet of my shoeless great grand fathers
Move in my mind.
If my childhood
teachers are seen on any road
My thumb hides itself in the fist
As a hen encountered by a hawk.
When parrot like, admirers of Rama
Appreciate my poetry in exclamations
The poetry of my race sunk in the soil
Accosts me cruelly.
cross roads waiting
Invite me with festoons
Golden swans are all too eager to
five steps with me instead of the seven.
The dust of my forefathers' bodies
anew from their undergrounds.
When women unseen by the sun
Compete in their choice of marriage
for me -
Heads struck, limbs cut flare up in me still.
When temples and the new gods
to pay tributes,
Temple bells laugh ironically in semi-darkness.
I have risen as a fifth sun.
Tearing the dark clouds of the four walls.
My rays of blood today
Reflect on the face of the moon.
In the light of the new sun
Time will read my autobiography
As a text
- Translated by
A New Dream
the five elements,
Once nailing the sky
Once nailing the under world
skin on the
The sun and the moon should
Become a pair of shoes !
may be with
Hunger or is it insult -
Making shoes with your own skin,
I dream of this world
Becoming a toe strap
Kissing your greater toe
- Translated by ‘MO’
Believe it or not!
Really that young Dakkali girl
Weaving a date mat
Is a Queen!
mother follows her like Renuka Devi,
And father with trap ropes on his shoulder,
Singing Jambu Purana,
playing on the solo string,
A bunch of hounds around him -
The earth, a spinning nomadic top
That untouchable girl
Used to move in my tender heart like a puppet.
As the girl entered our
Riding a donkey
It looked as if Jesus entered Jerusalem.
As winged white ants hovered
over her like
Three crore deities
She came tugging up a rainbow to the donkey's tail.
whiteness of her calf eyes
Sticky moon shone like red meat.
Her smile with tartar of teeth
Was beyond all measures of beauty.
For that lass's non-Brahmin
Even Saraswati can't write the music key.
In childhood I used to drink
milk as well as mother's milk.
I saw my mother in the donkey the lass used to bring along.
as though a season of milk set foot in my stomach.
Donkey Milk! Donkey Milk!! At her call
of our street shone like Arundhati star
Becoming braying donkeys, we gathered round.
With one look at us -
the bliss of a mother breast - feeding
In the maternal eyes of that donkey.
The lass looked like a Buddhist
Before our huts for a mouthful of rice or gruel
Of a cupful of hands.
four faced God looking at her
Forehead couldn't tell
Whether her guts are crying or her lips smiling.
If only rice had eyes
Every dry particle would have cried.
Untouchability and hunger
Like a fish in a dried
We had at least a hut for our heads
Under the roof of the sky.
wandered like a nomad.
In a nation where the foul urine of cows
Becomes pious libation
girl had faith only in the donkey.
I always think of that girl.
I talk even in sleep, giving her a morsel
Taking it out from my own stomach.
I dream of her being a step higher than mine.
That Dakkali girl is not seen
Nor my childhood donkey mother!
Both move round inside
She stands at the junction of reservations
Demanding her share.
the horn of a buffalo blowing inside me
I see soft grains of rice as knives sharpening within me
a new war against my own ‘higher than thou.’
Translated by ‘MO’
Dakkali : Those born of Jambavant's
flank. Sub caste
of Madiga, a fifth caste. Nomads.
Jambu Pura : A
very ancient myth, tribal in character.
Four-faced God : Lord Brahma.
Our alley in the morning
Used to shine like a silk lalchie pressed.
She used to sweep the lanes
With love as of bathing
Her coarse blue saree
An apron-like cloth with checks across
A broom like the waist of
A dot on the forehead like a red signal in darkness,
like a Municipality Mother.
Menstrual cloths, and dirty linen
off in a push cart
She looked like Mother Ganges
Washing away all pollution.
up with the morning star
I still remember the strange sound of sweeping.
I who wasn't even
as tall as
Her broom stick can never forget our Mysamma.
Mysamma ! Mysamma !
I see a
mother in you, Mysamma
For cleaning my own dirt just for love
not related by blood.
Coming as yourself a gift,
Asking for a few coins to buy a cup of tea,
or the morning after Diwali night -
Is a never fading memory.
throw rubbish at door steps,' Mysamma,
Whoever listened to your lessons of cleanliness?
Like the cine actor's
Dirt grew by the day, foul smell spread
Through the rotten dustbin.
you had fever and so didn't come.
Never thought you would go away leaving no trace
Letting loads of dust
remain in our unchanging lives.
Mysamma ! Mysamma!!
As I ride my bicycle
the lane of the grave yard
Your memory touches me like a fragrance.
The lane that looked like
a washed dhoti
Now hangs its head with the crown of pollution.
Our black dog wails at
Rolling in the dust heap -
Maybe remembering you.
to our Municipal Sweeper)
- Translated by ‘MO’